Ruben Loftus-Cheek has caused a bit of stir by turning up at Cobham this week after just two weeks of official post-World Cup vacation, but he’s looking to turn a good year on loan at Crystal Palace and a good showing (albeit in limited minutes) at the World Cup for England into a Chelsea first-team spot, so the more time he gets with Sarri, the better for him in that regard.
And so far so good, as he was included in the traveling squad to Dublin for Wednesday’s friendly against Arsenal, and even got a runout for the final 15 or so minutes. He replaced Ross Barkley, who’s been one of Chelsea’s more interesting players so far this summer, to play as the furthest forward of the three midfielders. That RLC didn’t convert his penalty in the shootout, consigning Chelsea to a first preseason “loss”, hardly matters.
What matters is that he was playing ... and he even had a new shirt number to show off. Granted, it’s still a bit unofficial, as it’s just preseason, but Loftus-Cheek entered the fray with the No.12 on his back, as opposed to the No.14 that he had in his last appearance for Chelsea in 2017 (prior to which he would often be seen in the No.36 instead, befitting his status as a youth prospect).
Since then, the No.14 had been picked up by Tiemoue Bakayoko, so on his return, RLC chose No.12, which has not been worn since the legendary Mikel left us for the Chinese Super League. Mikel had that number on lockdown for a decade; prior to that it belonged to the likes of Mario Stanic, Craig Burley, and Michael Duberry. And now, it looks to be Loftus-Cheek’s, provided he stays with the club this season.